Tuesday, August 16, 2011


"The Ahquedaukenash then of the Indians, and the Aquedahcan and Aquedoctan of the English, were one and the same name, applied to the fishing place, of the Indians, at the outlet of Lake Winnepesaukee, now known as " The Weirs." This was called Ahquedaukee, or the Weirs, from the fact that the dams or weirs at this place were 'permanent ones. The Winnepesaukee is not a variable river, and at the outlet of the lake the water for some distance passed over a hard pebbly bottom, and did not average more than two feet in depth. This was an excellent place for ahquedaukenash or dams, and could not fail of being duly improved by the Indians. Accordingly as before suggested, they had here permanent weirs. Not being able to drive stakes or posts into the hard pebbly bottom of the river, they placed large rocks at convenient distances from each other, in a zig-zag line across the river. Against these they interwove their brushwood weirs, or strung their hempen nets, according to their ability. Such weirs were used in the spring and fall, both when the fish went up and down the river. Such ahquedaukenash were frequent upon this and other rivers, and the rocks thus placed in the river by the Indians, remained in their position long after the settlement of the English in that neighborhood, and were used by them for a like purpose ; hence the name of weirs as continued at the present time.

In the fishing season, the whole Pennacook nation were at their home at Namaoskeag, and welcomed strangers from abroad with feasting and revelry. The first thing to be done was to make an " ahquedaukee "or weir. This was usually done after this wise: a line of stout sapling stakes was extended across the river, some ten or twelve feet apart, at a point where the bottom was soft, so that the stakes could be driven into the sand or mud. These stakes were inclined down stream, and were interwoven with birch tops and other brush wood, or nets were strung from stake to stake, so as to present an effectual barrier to the fish. On one side of the river, one or more stakes in distance were left clear of brush or nets, so that the fish might have a free passage up.

There can be little doubt of the fact, that at the outlet of the basin, at the foot of the main falls of Namaoskeag, and upon the west side of the Merrimack, a place now known as the eddy, as before suggested, that the Indians had a permanent weir, made by placing boulders of stone at convenient distances across the outlet of the basin, in like manner as at their ahquedaukenash at the outlet of the Winnepesaukee. The position was equally eligible, and had this superior ad vantage,, that when constructed, both salmon and shad were secured in the basin above.

A run or school of fish would pass up till they met the swift water from the falls, when they would retreat in myriads down the stream, till they came in contact with the wier—-here they would turn again to meet the rushing school from above. Thus in a little time the capacious basin above the weir would be filled, and black with fish,—the strong and athletic salmon throwing himself out of the water in his affright and rage. This was the favorable time for the Indian fishers. The watch would give the signal, and the birch canoes would speed their way to the scene, an Indian in the stern of each plying his light paddle., and another in each bow with a spear or dip-net, according to his ability or ingenuity. When fish were so penned up as it were, it required but little skill to catch them, and a thrust with the spear, or a dip of the net, was seldom unsuccessful. When the canoes were filled, or the fishers became tired of their labor or sport, the fish were taken to the shore and delivered over to the squaws, who stood ready with their knives, and dressirig the fish, split them and laid them in the sun to dry, or hung them upon the centre-pole of their wigwams to smoke. Each night was passed in dancing and feasting, a kind of Thanksgiving for the success of the day. At these fishing seasons, lover's vows were plighted, marriages were consummated, speeches made, and treaties formed. There can be little doubt that it was a fishing season at Namaoskeag, when in 1660 Passaconnaway made his dying speech, spoken of by Hubbard, and that here too both Passaconnaway, and Wannalancet his son, heard the apostle Eliot preach to their people, and set the example to their followers of publicly recommending the Christian religion.

the history of manchester, formerly derryfield in new- hampshire; including that of ancient amoskeag, or the middle merrimack valley

The History of Manchester, New Hampshire, written by Chandler Eastman Potter in 1851. Chapter IV is titled "Manners and Customs of the Pennacooks, Ahquedaukenash or Weirs", and can be read in its entirety here:

"Ahquedaukenash" signifies, literally, a dam, or stopping-place, and was constructed in thjs wise: Large granite boulders were placed in an irregular line across the river, the boulders representing the angles of a crooked rail-fence, and at a proper distance below the falls. Wherever it was practicable, strong sapling stakes were driven into the bed of the river, and used for the same purpose, or took the place of rocks; but at the outlet of the Winnipesaukee this was impracticable, owing to the solid character of the river-bed. Having thus prepared the foundation, the rocks being some ten or twelve feet apart, a netting was then woven of twigs and tough and pliable bark, with meshes sufficiently close to prevent the fish escaping. This was strung entirely across the river, above and against the rocks, excepting a space between one or two of the rocks or stakes, these being left open for the fish to pass through in their progress up the river; through these openings the whole force of the fish must and did pass.

As few of them scaled the falls until after repeated efforts, and the rapidly advancing "school" crowded steadily through the opening, it follows that the pen. or ahquedaukenash, was soon full. Now was the time for the Indian shad-catcher. Expert fishermen,'and such others as were selected and appointed for the purpose, manned the canoes and pushed boldly out among the pent-up prisoners, and with spear and dip-net lost no time in filling the canoe, in this regard illustrating the old maxim, "Make hay while the sun shines." Returning freighted heavily, they handed them to the squaws, who stood ready, knife in hand, to split the fish, and hang them up to smoke for winter on the centre-pole of the wigwam, or laid them out to dry in the sun on improvised flakes.
The Merrimac River, Its Source and Its Tributaries, by J.W. Meader, 1869. Chapter IV is titled "The Forks - Winnipeaukee Lake and River", and details about the Ahquedaukenash can be read here:

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